Imee: P20 million offered per district for House Cha-cha

Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Imee: P20 million offered per district for House Cha-cha
Senator Imee Marcos on November 16, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — Up to P20 million was reportedly offered to each congressional district that could deliver by next week the needed number of signatures that support the Charter change (Cha-cha) being pushed in the House of Representatives, Sen. Imee Marcos said yesterday.

Marcos condemned the alleged offer, noting the money would reportedly be taken from the government assistance programs under the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Health (DOH) and Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“I even heard that big cities were also promised to receive P20,000 if they can produce 20,000 signatures by Jan. 13. Many newly elected barangay captains were ordered to produce 20,000 signatures by the weekend so they could receive goodies from these agencies,” Marcos said.

“I condemn the offer because our Constitution is not for sale. Apparently they offer the DSWD’s assistance to individuals in crisis situation (AICS), DOLE’s TUPAD or tulong panghanapbuhay sa ating disadvantaged/displaced workers and the DOH’s medical assistance to indigent patients program (MAIPP).”

Congressional districts that can produce a good signature turnout will reportedly get P5 million from the DWSD’s AICS or Ayuda sa Kapos sa Kita Program, P10 million from DOH’s MAIP program and P5 million from DOLE’s TUPAD.

Based on allegations of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, mayors were given funds to persuade their constituents to sign documents pertaining to the people’s initiative petition.

Marcos corroborated Lagman’s claims, saying she received similar information wherein local chief executives were supposedly offered P5 million to P20 million worth of projects from the DSWD, DOH and DOLE.

Marcos showed a copy of the document for the signature campaign being circulated in local government units.

She expressed doubts that the Cha-cha is intended to ensure economic growth. She refused to identify the people behind the Cha-cha move.

“Clearly, somebody is holding the budget. We know the power of the purse rests on Congress. Maybe those with access to or control over the funds… I’m just saying why do they have the courage to offer something like this? Is our Constitution now for sale? This shamelessness is terrible,” Marcos said.

The senator said she is not one to defend the 1987 Constitution, which was crafted after the ouster of his father, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and during the rise to power of the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino.

“Of all people, I should not be the one defending the Cory Constitution, which has vindictive anti-Marcos provisions post-EDSA Revolution. But Charter change is not needed at a time when the country is still recovering and life is hard,” Marcos said in Filipino.

She said easing the restrictive provisions of the 1987 Constitution could be done by passing laws that open the country’s economy to foreign investments.

Marcos warned that proponents of Cha-cha want to tinker with the political provisions to install a prime minister.

“In the end, it will all surprise us that our Constitution was sold for a mere P100,” she said in Filipino.

Probe bribe

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III has called for a proper investigation into the allegation that voters were bribed to sign a people’s petition seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Pimentel urged the public to gather evidence showing those who would sign the people’s initiative would be given P100 each as alleged by Lagman.

“The alleged Charter change bribery can also be a form of graft if there is evidence to the claims of Sen. Imee Marcos that welfare funds were used as a carrot stick to regions capable of churning out the numbers for a people’s initiative,” Pimentel said.

“We need more investigative work. But if indeed the signatures were paid for, then the People’s Initiative Petition is not from the people, but is the initiative of the source of the money, which could be commercial or some other vested selfish interest,” Pimentel said.

“Anything of value in exchange for a signature can be considered a bribe,” he added.

Pimentel said not only is it illegal for Cha-cha proponents to bribe their way to amending the 1987 Constitution, but getting the people’s support through grease money defeats the purpose of a people’s initiative.

He was reacting to allegations that the House majority bloc bribed local chief executives to persuade constituents to support the Cha-cha petition. — Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin

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